Taking the university as a field, actors here refer not only to individuals actors (for example academicians) but collective actors such as a groups of office workers who work and cooperate over a task, subunits of organizations (e.g. faculties and departments) competing for organizational resources (Kluttz & Fligstein, 2016). By immersing themselves in the field, actors take on dispositions and schemas that generate practices (Bourdieu, 2005). The collection of these dispositions is what has been referred to as “habitus”.
Habitus. The term habitus has been used to denote the cognitive and motivating structure highlighted in the explanation of practices above. The crux of Bourdieu’s argument is that, knowledge is socially constructed with the active involvement of the social agent or individual, and the principle of this construction is the habitus (Bourdieu, 1990). He defined it as “a system of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures, predisposed to function as structuring structures” (Bourdieu, 1990 p. 55). It inclines an actor to behave or act in certain ways. These dispositions are “inculcated, structured, durable, generative and transposable” (Thompson, 1991 p. 12).
The dispositions are inculcated because they come about through gradual processes of socialization; largely primary socialization (childhood experiences through the family) (Bourdieu, 1977) and secondary socialization (experiences in current contexts such as school, workplace) (Chudzikowski & Mayrhofer, 2011). The habitus is also a structured structure because it is a product of past experiences which are deposited in each individual as perceptions, thoughts and actions and as a result it portrays the condition of living of an individual and the position occupied within the structure from which the habitus was acquired (Bourdieu, 1984). But the habitus is also termed as a ‘structuring structure’ because it serves the purpose of generating and organizing practices and the perception of these practices even in fields different from those from the which the habitus was produced (Bourdieu, 1990). It is also durable in the sense that it endures through the life of the actor in a way that it is not easily changed (Thompson, 1991 p. 12).
The habitus inclines an agent to act and react; producing practices and attitudes which are not necessarily consciously coordinated by obedience to rules. They are the basis of individuals’ strategies which enable them to cope with unforeseen and changing situations and tasks (Bourdieu, 1977). Simply put, it provides an individual the sense of what is appropriate and how to act. However it should be noted that, these practices are not the result of only the habitus but rather a product of relationship that occurs between one’s habitus and the social context (field) in which the individual puts up such practices (Bourdieu, 1984). The relationship between the habitus and field is a cyclical one. Whilst the habitus is ‘modus operandi’ the mode of doing things that is recognized as objective it is also ‘opus operandi’ the result of these practices (Bourdieu, 1977). That is, through interactions and experiences, individuals develop their habitus and the practices of such individuals also shape what goes on in the field (Melville, Hardy & Bartley, 2011).
Capital. Bourdieu also relates practices to the concept of capital. An agent in a field at any point in time occupies a position, which is determined by the structure and quantity of resources (capital) he has at his disposal (Walther, 2014). Each field values a particular kind of capital and depending on the field it functions, capital can either be economic, cultural or social. Although they are different, one form of capital can be exchanged into another form (Bourdieu, 1986). Economic capital is basically the revenues or financial assets of an individual. It is easily converted into money and may be institutionalized as property rights (Bourdieu, 1986). Cultural capital is the primary deferring factor among agents in a social field (Walther, 2014). It is categorized into three forms: 1) in the embodied form, cultural capital is a durable system of dispositions that represents one’s culture and presupposes a process of embodiment (Bourdieu, 1986). This embodied capital, which is transformed into a habitus is not immediately transferred or acquired but rather takes time. Examples include competence and skills; 2) the objectified form of cultural capital exists in material objects and media, such as writings, paintings, and instruments, to mention but a few. Unlike the embodied form, it is easily transferable; and 3) the institutionalized cultural capital takes the form of academic qualifications. It is the cultural capital which is academically sanctioned by legal qualifications and is formally independent of its bearer. The academic qualification confers on its holder a guaranteed value with respect to culture (Bourdieu, 1986).
Finally, social capital is defined as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition-or in other words, to membership in a group-which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectively-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word” (Bourdieu, 1986, p. 51). This definition has formed the basis for many recent studies on social capital. There is yet another type of capital; the symbolic capital. This form of capital is not an independent capital but rather it is the form that the various types of capital assume when they are perceived and recognized as legitimate (Bourdieu, 1989). It is the capital on which value is ascribed by a particular field.
The theory of practice as introduced by Bourdieu (1977, 1984) proposes a formula that explains the interplay among these concepts. According to Bourdieu (1984), at any moment, an agent finds himself in a social field and through the interaction between his/her habitus and the field; s/he utilizes her/his resources (capital also referred to as power) to advance his or her interest; (habitus) (capital) + field = practice. Capital is a major cause or reason for distinction among agents in a social field (Bourdieu, 2005). The field is a place of power relations where the position of the actors and their interactions are determined by the kind of resources or capital they are in possession of. The following section focuses solely on one of these capitals; social capital, its conceptualization taking into consideration the two major deferring perspectives, its dimensions, creation and effects or critiques.